It’s Only Funny When You Don’t Die

I once drove 7,500 miles in a circle.

Technically, it was only a circle if you’re two-years-old, have a box of crayons and a whole lotta wall awaiting your art. So, maybe it was more circle-esque, in that the start and end both coincided and it offered some sense of a looping line in between.

I had a number of wild ideas in my twenties. Most of them resulted in generous face-plants into walls inconveniently placed where doors should have been. Or it could have just been I had no directional awareness of where doors where supposed to be and a strange affinity for pain. On occasion, however, my wild ideas bore fruit. Bananas, mostly. A lemon or two. Nothing as exotic as a kiwi. Of course, I don’t really like kiwi. My associations with kiwi coincide with a time in which I thought dating a not so sane ex-stripper a fancy idea. That’s another kind of fruit altogether, however, but a decent explanation of both my dislike for kiwi and for running into metaphorical walls.

Where was I?

Oh, bad ideas. Right. So, I had this idea once that I should drive around the country in thirty days. Ambitious writer-type stuff. See what I see, live the life, draw words from the nectar of experience, write bold provocative words for the world to behold, stand proudly in fists-to-hips superhero pose. Not quite Jack Kerouac, at its core. More like Clark Griswold with a video camera instead of a family, and more ambition than actual plan. I didn’t so much as work on the logistics of the trip as dig my hands in the Lego box, toss things around, and scream OH MY GOD LEGOS YOU GUYS!

So, with the help of my Uncle Charles, I converted my pickup into a mobile hotel–complete with shelves, bed, topper that resembled the top of a square igloo, road atlas, all the sci-fi soundtracks any good sci-fi geek should own (yes, shut up), and left. I may have bought food. I can’t be certain. I don’t recall starving, so somewhere in there rest assured that Pringles, peanuts, or Combos made an appearance. Quality nutrition to fuel the soul of any spirited traveler. I figured I could find my way to various campsites along the unmarked, unplanned, who-the-hell-knows path and save a good bit of money avoiding hotels. REAL WRITER STUFF!

See, the thing is … the thing about “planning” that makes so much sense is you take the time to work out logistics, so that when you head out on the road for a month long trip around the country, you do so knowing whether or not you’re driving into the path of an oncoming hurricane on the first day of your journey. Small detail kind of stuff. What’s that? Oh, nothing. Just your average Category 4 nightmare bearing down on you. Hey, I made it six hours into my trip before needing a hotel. That has to count for something. All that prep and money invested on Hotel Truck really paid off! At least my vehicle had some height. Owners of the cars I passed, floating in their lagoons on side streets as they were, seemed terribly displeased with the situation. I probably would have been too, but I was too white-knuckled and desperate for a hill to pay much mind. Fortunately, not too far off I-10 I found a hotel, conveniently located at a higher point of elevation–for Florida this would be measured as ten to fifteen feet above People Level, since Sea Level is nothing short of a hopeless dream–where I watched the water level rise from the safe confines of a second-floor room.

By the way, have you ever seen a river flow from the sky? I have. It’s really fun.

Despite it all, and the odd dreams that night of being a fish trying to swim its way to Heaven, my truck did not float away. By a few inches, it managed to not get flooded, which is more than I can say for the guy in the Audi parked next to me. He was a sweet guy, for a man whose face flared with the focused rage of an insolent beet. I felt bad driving away as he tried to encourage his Insurance company that he didn’t drive into the pool this time.

The trip held it’s share of memories, not the least of which involved me, a couple of hours, a pig pen on the side of the road in the middle of Kansas, and a very one-sided conversation. Pigs really don’t have much to say, as it turns out. Fortunately, they fry up well.

Around Day 20, I found myself in Montana. At the time, my meta-dimensional secondary brother Jim lived in Livingston with his family. It was a long way from their previous home in Georgia, but with one look at the mountainous landscape, open sky, and brilliant Fall foliage I understood why they did it. Actually, that’s not true at all. I just wanted to talk about how beautiful it was. I’ve still never seen anything as majestic and breathtaking. But their reasons for moving were completely removed from the serenity of nature and more centrally fixated on the complete and utter lack of people. It was hoped that less people equaled less stupidity. Unfortunately, the equation doesn’t work that way. Though it would seem more people equals more stupidity, the truth is the percentage of stupidity in any group is always a constant. Spread fewer people out over a larger area, and they’re simply harder to find. They just account for a greater percentage of the required Stupid in the equation, and are therefore increasingly more stupid. Something like that. I don’t know. Jim’s father can explain it better. He rants on Stupid like know you’ve ever met.

Anyhow you rant it, I was there. Wanting to make the most of it on my behalf, Jim suggested we go hiking. Nothing extreme (that 10,000-foot peak came on the next trip). Just a small climb to the top of a waterfall. Didn’t matter that it was snowing. All the better even. More picturesque. Good for the trip’s documentary. So we headed out of town, camera recording the drive and the subsequent climb. Actually, it was great fun. Particularly the holy-hell-we’re-still-alive journey back down. After all, Jim did almost die at the top of the waterfall.

Funny thing about holding a video camera from the 90’s. They were big, heavy, and difficult to balance on your shoulder. Like holding a 24-pack of water bottles on its side. With one hand in the grip, and the other bouncing around in a vain attempt to offer support it could never manage, you were pretty much at its mercy. Sure, nostalgia is great, but the risk we took to record it was kind of, well, dumb. Especially when you’re trying to balance on an icy rock surface at the top of a waterfall. I give Jim credit. Both for offering to put my stubbly face on my trip documentary–of which it had not yet been–and also for maintaining a perfect cradle on my expensive equipment as his feet slipped out from underneath him and his body was suddenly no longer a part of the solid part of Earth. The recording went beautifully. After all, it was a really nice camera. One moment I was there, being the absurd and awkward fool I am in front of a camera, the next there’s a wonderful shot of the moon in daylight as Jim gives a subtle “oop” as he went airborne and a less subtle “oof” as he collided again with Mother Earth.

Here’s the kicker. What you should hear at this point is absolute panic. Screaming, calling Jim’s name, rushing to his side. Me, in frame, concerned for my best friend and meta-dimensional secondary brother. What you hear, instead, is me laughing. Hard. Jim, despite the ordeal, didn’t quit recording. A real trooper. Pure dedication. It’s just life after all. Better record it while you have it. He managed to sit up, find me, and then recount the harrowing tale of something that just happened as if I had not been there to witness it. To which, through my continued laughter, I offered in defense, “It’s only funny because you didn’t die.”

What still disturbs me to this day is how genuine my words were. I didn’t think about it, I didn’t sugarcoat it. I just said what I knew as a truth at that moment. Because Jim didn’t propel himself off the waterfall, instead falling flat on his back and in notable pain, I could laugh. Because his choice to protect my camera over an effort to brace himself during a fall didn’t result in horrible splatter death … funny. And I wonder what that means about me. About my perspective. Life is only funny until you die? A joke is only funny until it’s over? A hurricane is only funny unless it’s carrying you away kicking and screaming? Does this indicate derangement? Have I been on some type of lifelong psychotic bender?

Or was it just really funny?

It’s a fair question. I mean, America’s Funniest Home Videos made a living off poor schmucks whose kids accidentally whacked them in the nuts and people laughed at that. On some level, isn’t possible that children who might have been born will no longer? It’s not death per se, but a lack of opportunity at life. In fact, the Christian Coalition should look into whether or not it’s some type of pre-meditated sex-free abortion.  Not so funny anymore is it? If these poor schmoes died of testicular raculation it wouldn’t be funny either. Why? Because they died. See? It’s only funny when you don’t die.

Adventures Are Not Always Better Than Tacos

It’s been suggested I write about my 7-hour adventure traveling 12 miles from work to home in Atlanta’s Horror Snow. But what can I say that hasn’t already been said? For that matter, what can I say that I haven’t already? I’d offer my sanity was saved by the existence of Facebook, and my insistence on keeping a phone charger in the car, but those who know me might dispute I had any sanity left to begin with. Also, when I find myself saying “I was only in the car for seven hours,” I do so as a comparable to the experience of others, and it begins to feel more like I experienced a mild inconvenience on the way back from the store. People ran out of gas, were trapped in their cars for up to 20 hours. Kids on buses, the elderly in parking lots and on the shoulder, freezing, hungry, scared. Some slept in stores, or at strangers’ houses. Me? Well, I had a 24 pack of water in my backseat I happened to buy that morning, had fueled up the day before, eaten before leaving work. All things considered, I was fine. Frustrated, sure, but fine. I knew I would get home. There was no danger of reckless driving; I used second gear for all of five seconds on my 7 mile trek around I-285. Hard to get into a serious accident at 1 MPH.

You can never have too many plus sides.

You can never have too many plus sides.

By comparison, I had it easy. Worst thing, aside from general discomfort, I had to deal with was an increasingly full bladder. It was suggested I make use of the water bottles available, but first off it seemed a horrifying thought to dump out water when so many people could have used it, and secondly I kept having visions of Lloyd Christmas peeing into beer bottles.

The mechanics of that still confuse me.

What reason had I to complain? I not only had supplies and phone power, I had polar bears to lead me home.

They will lead you home. Or to Svalbard. Either way, follow.

They will lead you home. Or to Svalbard. Either way, follow.

I had entertainment, and a demanding cousin who wouldn’t give me a biscuit:

It's Snow RapSnow More

BISCUIT ME

Sure, I spent the last three hours inching the quarter of a mile to the sign marking my exit ramp, idling for 20 minutes at a time, crawling toward the light like that creepy no-lower-half zombie chick from the first episode of the Walking Dead, but I knew I was close enough to walk if I had to. I knew that once I hit the road, there would be no one in the mall parking lot, and my last mile would be incident free. I knew I had a warm home, food, much drink, a comfy bed, and loving Moss waiting for me with somewhat still warm Jambalaya just a mile and half away. I knew, unlike many of my friends still stuck miles from home, my It’s Snow Adventure Really time was nearly at an end.

If you don't know Jim, well, sucks for you.

If you don’t know Jim, well, sucks for you. Almost as much as misspelling grateful.

What I went through wasn’t horrible. Being born in a car on 285 is horrible (though being born and surviving is a definite plus). Being an elderly couple stranded in a car, unable to walk because the husband is wheelchair-bound is horrible. Being told your child is stranded on a bus on the side of the road, with no gas or heat or food, and being able to do nothing about it is horrible. I just had an experience. An inconvenience. It was nothing to whine about.

I saw enough from my city to be reminded why I call it home. As I posted yesterday:

Yesterday I saw enough kindness to alter the way I feel about Atlanta. People jumping out of cars to help others gas up, offering ice scrapers to those trying to get their cars moving, businesses opening their doors, strangers opening their homes. The city wasn’t prepared for this. But the people have responded. Well done, folks.

Atlanta: We've survived the Olympics, sorta survived the Zombie Apocalypse, and we'll survive this.

Atlanta: We survived the Olympics, sorta survived the Zombie Apocalypse, and we’ll survive this.